Halloween really is just around the corner, believe it or not! I feel like September flew by and all of a sudden, I looked around me, and it was October! I’m happy about that, though. September was not the cool, breezy fall that I know and love. It was hot, humid, and rainy. While the rainy part is still true, at least the heat is out the door! I don’t mind the rain as long as I can bundle up a bit. There’s nothing more miserable than standing in the subway station, waiting for a train while the muggy subway air seems to linger in a heavy smog all around you. By the time I got to work in the mornings I was already wanting to go home and take a shower! Thankfully, the air is now brisk and people everywhere seem to be a in much cheerier mood, even despite the shorter daylight hours. I cannot wait to wake up early this Saturday morning and head over to the Union Square Greenmarket, grab a cup of coffee, and stroll around checking out what the farmers have in store for me this week! Usually it’s a bit uncomfortable in the heat, but when the air is crisp and I’m sipping on a piping hot cup of coffee, everything seems right in the world. Kramer promised to go with me this weekend, so hopefully we can grab brunch before or after, and maybe stop over at the Trader Joe’s wine shop for a little Saturday evening treat. Am I the only one who plans out their weekend in full while it’s still the work week? I hope not!
In sticking with the Halloween theme, I decided to make these simple, but cute, cupcakes. I admit that I am not a big cupcake baker. There is so much effort involved! Not only do you have to fill 24 little molds with cake batter, but you have to whip up a batch of frosting and frost every single one! Every once in a while, though, I will put aside my inherent laziness and get to work decorating some cupcakes. I didn’t get too crazy, here; I just made a simple yellow cake, dyed a tiny bit with some food coloring (I wanted them to be more orange, but alas, they were not – it’s time to invest in some gel food coloring instead of the liquid stuff I’ve been using for years, I suppose), and made a rich buttercream icing, which I admit, was my favorite part. I’m not even a big fan of frosting, usually, but this was some pretty tasty icing! It was firm, but not hard, and didn’t melt all over the place or get stuck to your fingers as you ate. The cake was good, although I shouldn’t have stuck the cupcakes in the fridge all night (room temperature for 24 hour is completely fine, but for some reason I decided I wanted my kitchen to look tidy, so in they went). Before the fridge, they were moist and fluffy, if I do say so myself. I think that they had just the right bit of vanilla without being overly sweet. I recently bought a frosting spatula, deviating from the usual butter knife that I’ve used for the past some-odd years, and it really made a huge difference! I was able to control the icing with much greater ease, and I’d love to get a smaller one to use on cupcakes, as the 13-inch one is more suitable for larger cakes. If you do a lot of baking around the holidays, these things are cheap and highly recommended! I’m not expert decorator by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt pretty skilled using this spatula! I sprinkled some chocolate jimmies on top of the icing before it dried, and topped that with a cute little candy corn. I brought them into work and even though they were simple vanilla cupcakes, I think that they were still a big hit! What are you all planning on baking for your Halloween festivities?
Your ingredients for the cupcakes.
Combine your flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
Beat your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes, then add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Add in the milk and flour in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour. Be careful not to overbeat!
Add just enough red and yellow food coloring to make your batter a light orange color. If you have food coloring paste, go ahead and make it a bright orange, but since I was working with stupid liquid food coloring, I didn’t want to add too much, as it sometimes can change the taste and texture of the cakes.
Fill your muffin cups about 2/3 full (don’t overfill or the cupcakes will overflow). Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until set, but still a bit spongy when touched. Allow to cool completely (or mostly) before removing from the pan and allowing to finish cooling on another surface.
When the cupcakes are fully cool, make the frosting by beating the butter until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes, then slowly adding in 5 cups of powdered sugar, the milk, and almond extract. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar gradually, and add in an extra 1/2 cup if necessary.
Start frosting your cupcakes, either by piping it on or simply frosting with a spatula (as I did). Decorate with some chocolate jimmies and a festive candy corn!
If you have time, you can try to teach your husband to frost a cupcake, but he will (probably) only do one and sit back down, defeated. It takes a little bit of practice, doesn’t it?
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups milk (I used 2%, but I think it might be better to do 1% with these)
- red + yellow food coloring (to make orange cupcakes - optional)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 cups powdered sugar, plus 1-2 cups extra, as needed
- ¼ cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1-2 teaspoons almond extract (depending on how almond-y you want it)*
- *You can use clear vanilla extract, if you prefer. The reason that I used almond extract is because it's naturally clear and therefore didn't discolor my frosting. You can also just go ahead and use vanilla extract, but your frosting will not be white.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and/or line 24 muffin cups. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
- Beat together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. In alternating batches, add in the flour and milk. Start with ⅓ of the flour, then ½ the milk, then another ⅓ of the flour, then the rest of the milk, followed by the remaining ⅓ of the flour (always start and end with your dry ingredients when doing this). Be careful not to overmix, or the cupcakes will become very dense.
- Fold in your food coloring, if you're using it, until the cupcakes are orange (you want to be festive, right?). Fill your muffin cups ⅔ full (overfilling will cause the cupcakes to overflow) and bake for 12-15 minutes, until set and slightly spongy when touched. Allow to cool completely before frosting (recipe for frosting follows). Makes 24 cupcakes.
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add in the 5 cups of powdered sugar, the milk, and the almond extract, and beat, VERY carefully (unless you want to look like you're wearing a powdered wig), until everything is combined, then turn up the speed on your mixer and beat until light and fluffy, at least another 3 full minutes. Check the consistency and add another 1½ cups of powdered sugar, beating until fully combined and the buttercream is smooth. Add another ½ cup if you feel it's necessary (I did). Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes**.
- **If you are planning to pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes, I recommend doubling this recipe (or at least one-and-a-halfing it).